Final Sustainability Challenge: Week 4

For the final week of The Sustainability Co-Op’s Sustainability Challenge, we challenge you to watch and reduce the food you waste. In the United States, 40% of food goes to waste between production, transport, and consumption. At the household level, we waste about 300 lbs of food each year! Food waste not only wastes the valuable resources required to create food (i.e. water, land, energy), it contributes to climate change. In terms of climate change, food waste contributes around 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) each year! If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of GHGs, after China and the U.S. A big part of food waste’s contribution to climate change occurs when it gets to a landfill, where it emits methane, a GHG with a global warming potential (GWP or relative measure of how much heat a GHG traps in the atmosphere) much greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Although the wastefulness of our food system is a big and complicated issue, there are many governments, companies (particularly start-ups), non-profits, and other organizations tackling it at different points and in innovative ways. Some examples include the ugly fruit and veggie movement and legislation encouraging grocery stores to donate unsold food and clarifying Best Buy/Sell By/Expires On dates on food labels.

We can also do our part in our daily life. To reduce food waste and minimize your environmental footprint relating to food this week, we encourage you to:

  • Make a list for the grocery store and try to stick to it. Thinking about and rationalizing your purchases before you go to the store can help you avoid buying unnecessary items and meal planning can help ensure you aren’t buying extra food that will go bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Explore creative ways to eat food at risk of going bad. Fruit and veggies are healthy and the way to go, but they are one of the biggest culprits of food waste due to their relatively short shelf life. Stir-frys, smoothies, and casseroles can be great options to use up those fruits and veggies.
  • Think twice about Best Buy/Sell By/Expires On dates. The dates on many of the food products we consume are not associated with any regulated testing of food safety or science but rather included by the manufacturer to convey a subjective level of optimum quality. This can create confusion and food waste because it makes us think our food has gone bad when it hasn’t. Think twice and trust your instinct before throwing out food that still looks and smells good.

Want more tips to reduce food waste? Check out savethefood.com. In addition to taking on food waste this week, please continue reducing your meat consumption and reducing your water and plastic use, which altogether made up our four-week sustainability challenge. Additionally, we would like to ask you to take the time to think about any obstacles you experienced in putting these tips into practice. Please share these obstacles and your thoughts with us! Next week we will wrap up the Sustainability Challenge with a summary and next steps.

Participating in the Sustainability Challenge? Share your pictures and stories via comments on this post or through Twitter and Instagram, tagging us (@sustain_cooptve on Twitter and @sustainability_cooperative on Instagram) and including #SustainabilityChallenge or #SustainabilityMadeSimple.

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